Kites Are Fun

(Light in the Attic)



(Light in the Attic)

Donovan once said, "Pop is the perfect religious vehicle. It's as if God had come down to earth and seen all the ugliness that was being created and chosen pop to be the great force for love and beauty." And yep, that describes the Free Design... a great force of heavenly beauty! Right... then what makes 'em sanctified!? The FD produced, probably, the sweetest vocal harmony/ sunshine pop of the '60s! Aces, indeed, BUT even as they are a VOCAL group, accessible enough for "parents," they are saved from pop/lounge schmaltz pandering, as they sometimes cross over into the psychedelic. Um, NOT smoked-out psychedelic or clichéd hippie flower power, but psychedelic in the sense that it sounds whimsical, innocent, light, and easy. AND their LPs are somewhat, thoughtfully or not, conceived as a whole--their SOUND links the tracks together. In terms of vocal harmony pop LPs, this is a novel occurrence, as most vocal harmony pop was conceived for the singles market, and the accompanying LPs were mismatched batches of producer-driven crap. So, THAT is FD's appeal, they step above the rest, and it's proved timeless. MIKE NIPPER


Kish Kash


In the first two minutes, showcasing a positively euphoric vocal track from the BellRays' Lisa Kekaula, Kish Kash reaches a top-of-the-mountain elation matched only by other steelhardy dance numbers like M. Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and Björk's "Hyperballad." You could listen to it forever--Kekaula's searing diva croon telling off a wayward beau; unleashing a tidal wave of synths and split-apart backing vocals, Basement Jaxx have got her back like sisters. The British production duo's latest release is impressively consistent, propelling through 14 tracks of brain-boggling (and emotionally resonant) dance numbers. The boys in Jaxx know their soloists, swiping vox from Dizzee Rascal and even *NSYNC's JC Chasez, whose aching, Drakkar Noir falsetto gets the elevator shoe from the Jaxx's funky, chunky synth low-end. Siouxsie Sioux weighs in like Peaches (the original goth diva actually begins her song with the line "Yo, yo, yo!") but her vibrato is palpable (Tracy + the Plastics!). Kish Kash is dense enough for dance-floor thinkers, and even in its ponderous parts sounds utterly ecstatic. JULIANNE SHEPHERD


You Are Here


James Baluyut is one creepy motherfucker. The latest heir to a crown of indie rock royalty (brothers Ed and Richard founded Versus, of which James was later a member), Baluyut's recent +/- (as in "Plus/Minus") project paints the guy as a romantic train wreck--from the reluctant bleeding heart of his solo introduction, Self-Titled Long-Playing Debut, to the downright goose-bumped obsessions of the full-band follow-up, You Are Here. From the former's arm's-lengthed approach to courtship to the latter's disturbing infatuation fantasies, Baluyut's bearings have shifted dramatically--in both approach and intent. Gone is the ethereal blush of the beautifully scatterbrained debut, the stumbling sweetness that so often propelled that record. And while still elaborately orchestrated laptop-pop, You Are Here realizes the focused (if heaving) computer-based rock sound its predecessor only hinted at. Replacing a couple of drum machines for an army of distortion pedals (real big ones, too), +/- surmounts its growing indie-electro peers with sheer weight--and though the lyrics are occasionally inane, Baluyut proves that there can be more to laptop-pop than the Postal Service. You know, like being really creepy. ZAC PENNINGTON


Opportunity Bless My Soul

(Version City Records)

Stephen Trask, watch out for Cody Critcheloe. Wacky, trashy, and enigmatic, the singer for Kansas City's Ssion (pronounced like "passion" without the "pa") evokes the glory days of trashvestite culture. Opportunity Bless My Soul is a concept album chronicling the rise of an animal band whose rock-star success turns them into giant yuppies, essentially. Critcheloe practically out-divas Karen O (and designed her album cover art), vamping over gritty guitars, weird drum machines turned up too high, catchy synths, and a chorus of girls getting higher than the B-52's. It seems like it should be piecemeal, but it fits together like a collage. While other cheeky humorists get derailed by track two (um, Gravy Train!!!!), Ssion transcend being of our time with smart lyrics in lieu of irony or even self-awareness--they're simply "majoring in 'fuck you.'" JULIANNE SHEPHERD

**** pumpkin pie *** mashed potatoes ** turkey * Brussels sprouts